Tag Archives: heavy rock

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Sweet at Birmingham Genting Arena 28/6/17

When I was a teenager getting seriously into rock and metal in the early 80s I was lucky enough to see some of the biggest acts around: AC/DC, Sabbath, Quo, Ozzy etc. One band I never got to see, however, was Rainbow and one guitar wizard I never got to see (in any formation) was Ritchie Blackmore. For some inexplicable reason (and I am normally really on the ball with this) I failed to get myself a ticket when Blackmore revived the Rainbow name and announced a tentative return to rock ‘ n’ roll last year. So when a further tour was announced this year I made absolutely sure I was going to be there this time.

The evening was going to be made even more special when I found out the support act would be Sweet, who I have been following for as long as I’ve been following Rainbow. Unlike Rainbow, I have seen The Sweet many times before over the past twenty-odd years – but usually in small rock venues or provincial theatres, never in an arena with a 15,000 strong crowd. In some ways, both Rainbow and The Sweet summed up the music of the mid 70s: the albums-based rock was brilliant and the singles-based pop was brilliant, too. Perfection!

Tonight would give Andy Scott and co the chance to rekindle their relationship with many older rock fans as well as hopefully winning over some newer fans, too. ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Teenage Rampage’, ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ et al all go down an absolute storm. My only complaint was that the set was heavily weighted towards the old hits, with little time for the harder-edged album-oriented rock of which the band have an impressive, if less well-known, back catalogue. However, we did get stunning versions of ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and hopefully Andy Scott’s continuing version of The Sweet has a good few more fans after tonight.

“I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order,” Eric Morecambe once famously said. No-one in their right mind could ever accuse guitar god, Ritchie Blackmore, of that. But funnily enough I was reminded of the old Morecambe & Wise gag when I was thinking about Ritchie Blackmore’s set-list at Birmingham tonight. Pretty much all of the songs that I very much hoped he’d play were in there – but the set order seemed to be in random shuffle mode with little attempt at any sort of thematic approach. We jumped from the polished commercial rock of Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow, to Coverdale-era Deep Purple, to the infectious pop-rock of Graham Bonnet, to the heavy prog-tinged majesty of Dio-era Rainbow and so on and so on. I suppose the main message was: “I have been involved with creating some amazing music in different bands with different vocalists and different styles – and whichever order you put them in they are all amazing…” Which is true!

After years away from doing gigs of this type and making albums like this Blackmore’s stunning guitar skills have not dimmed. Never guilty of being flashy for the sake of being flashy or of putting technical prowess ahead of creating beautiful melody, there is an elegance about his playing that is a joy to see live. Ronnie Romero, too, I thought was a good choice of vocalist. Of all the iconic vocalists Blackmore has worked with over the years, Romero probably sounds closest to Joe Lynn Turner in style, but he handled all of the material well from Gillan through to Coverdale, Dio, Bonnet and Turner. Towards the end a keyboard solo seemed to go on forever but that is a minor quibble. At the age of 51, the teenage rock fan in me has finally got see Ritchie Blackmore live on stage and has finally got to attend a Rainbow gig. He is happy.

Set-list – Sweet:

Action
Hellraiser
The Six Teens
Set Me Free
Teenage Rampage
Wig Wam Bam / Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster
Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

Set-list – Rainbow:

Spotlight Kid
I Surrender
Mistreated
Since You Been Gone
Man on the Silver Mountain
Soldier of Fortune
Perfect Strangers
Difficult to Cure
All Night Long
Child in Time
Stargazer
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Lazy
Catch the Rainbow
Black Night
Carry On… Jon
Burn
Smoke on the Water

http://www.ritchieblackmore.info/

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Interview: Diggeth – The Dutch heavy metal band with the ‘acoustic guitar test’

This interview was originally published by the Get Ready To Rock Website here

Some bands, regardless of how big they they are, what size venue they are playing or how many albums they have released just manage to grab you straight away with hard, punchy, instantly memorable rock tunes. When I wandered into Hastings’ historic rock pub, The Carlisle, with an old friend last summer I was immediately taken with the band who came on stage a few minutes later – Diggeth.

It’s all down to the “acoustic guitar test” claims guitarist and lead singer, Harald: “Everything we write we always have a criteria. We must be able to play it on an acoustic guitar. That’s the test. Because it is very easy to write all kinds of guitar riffs and string them together and on electric guitar everything sounds big. But we always do the test, grab an acoustic guitar and sing into it. Is there a song?”

Diggeth are Harald te Grotenhuis (guitar/vocals), Alco Emaus (bass) and Casper Bongers (drums) and are a metal three-piece from the eastern side of the Netherlands. I catch up with the band in after a sound-check prior to a return to the Carlisle stage later that evening as part of a UK tour.

The songs

Citing influences like AC/DC, Metallica and Lynyrd Skynyrd, songs like ‘Kings of the Underworld’ and ‘See You In Hell’ (from the band’s last album) have all the hallmarks of classic metal anthems and stand up well alongside those of much better-known bands.

They explain a bit more about the process behind them.

Harald “We jam a lot together. We are really a jamming band. I guess like the classic bands did. It’s not that difficult to come up with all kinds of intricate guitar riffs but the thing is to write something you can sing over. My wife is my best critic. Sometimes I play her a song and sometimes she says to me well it’s still in my head after a day or two and sometimes she says nah I’ve completely forgot about it. Sometimes we come together and write something on the spot. Sometimes it’s something I’ve worked on for days or weeks.

Casper: “We spend a lot of time jamming together with the three of us getting the sound, the bass, the whole dynamic.”

Alco: “We have a certain frame that we work in and we have a certain sound. That’s the starting point.”

Harald: “We always try to keep it as simple as we can. We’ve played in bands before and we were always gluing stuff together you know, riffing: A riff, B riff, C and here we’re gonna do a break but that to me is like a puzzle. If you listen to a classic band like the Beatles or the Stones or Creedence Clearwater Revival they have memorable songs. It’s the same thing with playing a guitar solo. You can play a lot of notes and do all kinds of techniques and it’s amazing if you can do that. But to me the best is if you can play a melody that sticks in your head. So that if you are on your bicycle to work tomorrow morning and you whistle that melody that’s the thing for me.”

Alco: “In a three-piece band the drums and the bass have to be tight, all together. So Harald can do his singing and when he plays a solo we go to the back of the sound a little bit but we still provide solid bass and drums.”

Harald: “What I like about it is sometimes I come up with stuff and as soon as he starts playing the bass to it and the drums come in nine times out of ten we have already started to simplify it. OK I came up with something and it’s already too much – bring it back to something that is memorable and sticks. There are many bands that play music and you have to listen a couple of times before you get it and we sometimes do that, too, but I also like it something that grabs you.”

Casper: “When the first note is like woah!”

The Band

Diggeth has been around since 2004 but Harald and Alco have been playing together in bands even before that, for around 17/18 years now. Casper, a couple of decades younger than the other two, is the new boy in Diggeth. Becoming a member two years ago was something of a dream come true for him.

Casper: “I first saw Diggeth when I was 13 and I was like wow! What the fuck is this? I was so excited. I had been playing drums and at home in the basement with the drum-kit. I would put on the first LP and play along with it. And I went to every show with my neighbour in my home town and one time, one new year’s day I think, they asked they asked me to join them for a jam in the studio, just for fun. Then about five years later I was with the band as a stand in drummer. Twenty songs and one week to learn them…”

Alco: “We recorded our last album ‘Kings of the Underworld’ and we got a lot of gigs lined up to promote the album -big ones, small ones and some festivals. But then our drummer decided to quit. We asked Casper to help us out and after two or three shows he joined us officially.”

Harald: ”With a three-piece band everything just has to be right, especially the drums and the bass. It gives me as guitarist and singer a freedom to do all kinds of stuff. It has to be spot on. Since we have had Caspar in the band it’s given us a lot of energy. It’s like wow things are taking off. We are playing a lot more gigs. We have just finished the basic tracks for our next albums. We have recorded ten new songs. We built our own studio last year. That gives us a lot of freedom. And now all of a sudden there are labels and bookers that are interested.”

Alco: “We are getting noticed.”

The shows

This is the band’s second tour in the UK, following an initial series of gigs last summer where I first encountered them

Harald: “We played our first gig [of this tour] on Thursday in London and there were people in but they we in the corners and we said OK let’s see what happens when we start to play people were like woah what’s happening and all of a sudden there were all the people in front of us. Everyone was paying attention.”

Alco: “We try to make a show of it.”

Harald: “The people who gave us feedback afterwards were like ‘wow there is something happening between the three of you – it’s good music but it’s also great to watch’ and I think that’s the biggest complement you can get as a band.”

Casper: “Obviously being a rock fan and a metal fan I feel very humbled to be able to come to England with Diggeth and play. All those famous bands that originated here it’s like wow we’re in England.”

Alco: “I never imagined when I was young that at 40 I would be in England, playing with a band playing the music that I love to play. Yesterday someone told us that the place we at in Reading Motorhead had played here and Iron Maiden. And we were like are you kidding me? Amazing.”

Harald: “If someone would have told me thirty years ago that in thirty years you will be playing in England and you will be playing clubs were like Iron Maiden had played I would have gone insane probably.”

The band’s third (as yet untitled) album will be released later this year.

https://www.facebook.com/Diggethmusic/

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Related article:

Review – Diggeth at Hastings 2016

Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 5/11/16

So it’s another trip to London and another trip to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal veterans Saxon, who are currently headlining a tour that also includes includes Fastway and Girlschool.

Girlschool are first up and deliver a great opening set. Even those unfamiliar with pretty much anything the band have put out since the 80s would find lots to like here. I always thought Girlschool’s brand of heavy metal worked best for them when they channelled their inner glam-pop sensibilities (something they always acknowledged was a key influence) and delivered songs that were loud, hard and heavy but laden with unmissable hooks, catchy choruses and memorable riffs. And for much of the set that’s exactly what we get: old favourites like Demolition Boys, Hit and Run, Emergency and (Gun cover) the fantastic Race With The Devil. Fitting very much into that template, too, is new song Come The Revolution, from their latest album: 2015’s Guilty as Sin.

Even thirty-odd years after Girlschool formed all-female rock bands are few and far between but well done the women of Girlschool for keeping the flag flying all these years and for doing it so brilliantly in 2016. A definite thumbs up from me.

Girlschool setlist
Demolition Boys
Hit and Run
Come the Revolution
Take It Like a Band
Future Flash
Watch Your Step
Race with the Devil
Emergency

http://www.girlschool.co.uk/

When Fastway was launched in 1983 a heavy rock supergroup was in the offing, featuring former members of Motörhead, UFO, and Humble Pie. Pete Way of UFO left before they even made their first album and, incredible a guitarist though ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke undoubtedly is, the band never really stayed on my musical radar. But at least that allowed me to approach their set tonight with a completely open mind. And my verdict: probably among the most talented performers of all three bands this evening. Eddie Clarke is an awesome guitarist, in particular, and Toby Jepsom (lead singer since 2007) has a great voice and a charismatic stage presence. And all the musicians had a good musical vibe and worked well on stage together. But… and this is a big but … compared to the other two bands this evening with their fistfuls of songs that are always imprinted on your brain and you can sing in the shower, this lot simply don’t reach that bar. In spite of some superb musicianship and a great stage presence having a great set of songs is, for me, a crucial component in distinguishing a good rock band from a truly exceptional one. However, Eddie Clarke’s greatest moment of the night is yet to come.

Fastway setlist:
Misunderstood
All Fired Up
Another Day
Deliver Me
Telephone
Heft!
Feel Me, Touch Me (Do Anything You Want)
Easy Livin’

http://www.fastwayofficial.com/site/

By the time Saxon come on at around 9pm every last square inch of floorspace in the Shepherds Bush Empire is completely rammed. I like being part of a sell-out audience in a packed venue but this bordered on being too close for comfort. Perhaps it’s a welcome sign that Saxon need to start booking bigger venues for their next tour.

Now Saxon have had their ups and downs over the years. After the initial wave of early 80s success, they never managed to attain the dizzy stadium-filling heights of their contemporaries like Iron Maiden (though personally I think Saxon are by far the superior band). Saxon risked being derided as heavy metal has-beens and written off as a bit of a joke. A much publicised documentary in 2007 saw them at constant loggerheads with Harvey Goldsmith as he took up the challenge to help restore the band’s popularity. But whether the band took on board any of Goldsmith’s advice or not it inevitably lead them to reflect on their music and their career. There’s been a significant change around in fortunes since and their bloody-minded determination to carry on serving their old fans as well as looking to gain a next generation of new ones has seen them through.

The album currently being toured Battering Ram stands up well against any of their early classics and it’s great to hear the album’s title track open the set. The album has been played and played on my stereo and so songs like The Devil’s Footprint and Queen of Hearts have become familiar old friends to me now and sit well in the set alongside earlier material. The last third of the set, however, is a non-stop run-through of those early Saxon classics: And The Bands Played On, Dallas 1PM, Wheels of Steel . It’s briefly broken for one of those ‘need-to-be-there’ moments when Eddie Clarke returns to the stage for a cover of his old band’s Ace of Spades as Saxon’s very special tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. Then it’s on with more timeless classics: 747 (Strangers in the Night), Denim and Leather and Princess of the Night.

Saxon in 2016 deliver the old material as good as they ever did, produce truly stunning new material and perform with a confidence and authority as befits one of British rock’s truly great bands. Just book a bigger venue next time, Biff!

Saxon setlist:
Battering Ram
Let Me Feel Your Power
Sacrifice
Solid Ball of Rock
Never Surrender
Crusader
Stand Up and Be Counted
The Devil’s Footprint
Strong Arm of the Law
Killing Ground
The Eagle Has Landed
Queen of Hearts
And the Bands Played On
Dallas 1 PM
Wheels of Steel
Ace of Spades (with Eddie Clarke)
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night

http://www.saxon747.com/

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Related review:
Saxon – album review: Battering Ram

Diggeth at The Carlisle, Hastings 15/7/16

The Carlisle pub in Hastings is the town’s premier rock venue, hosting a range of up and coming bands, more established (yet not major league) acts as well as various tributes to some of the big name bands (usually all free). After a trawl around Hastings old town with an old friend, we made it into the Carlisle just as the night’s headline band, Diggeth took to the stage. If you’re not familiar with a band already it’s sometimes a bit of a hit and miss affair: you are never going to like everything after all. But this band immediately grabbed my attention.

Diggeth are a Dutch three-piece who’ve been around for about a decade now. Loud, crunching bass, powerful drumming, some great guitar riffs and those austere slightly Germanic-sounding, slightly American-sounding vocals that Dutch rock singers can pull off so well. But, very importantly, they had some really, really good songs, too. It’s all original material but pays enough dues to heavy metal and hard rock heritage to give some of the songs the immediate air of sounding like would-be classic rock staples. In fact it’s a sure sign of musicians making an impact on their audience if a band that you’ve never heard of before, play you songs that you’ve never heard of before and get you enthusiastically humming and moving along to them while at the same time still sounding fresh and original.

In terms of influences the band cite AC/DC to Metallica to Michael Schenker to Slayer, as well as many more. I was certainly impressed enough by Diggeth to fork out a fiver for their CD – Kings of the Underworld, released in 2014. No souvenir purchase that’s soon forgotten about this: I’ve played it at least half a dozen times in the three or four days since I bought it. Songs like the title track ‘Kings of the Underworld’ and ‘See You in Hell’ have already become memorable classics to my ears and this is a band I’m certainly pleased to have stumbled across.

https://www.facebook.com/Diggethmusic/#

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Rock: album review – Whitesnake ‘The Purple Album’

As I’ve noted before, it’s understandable on the one hand but a real shame on the other that classic Deep Purple songs from the Mark 3 and Mark 4 eras are now all but forgotten by the band themselves. So efforts by both Glenn Hughes and now David Coverdale to celebrate the legacy of that era of the band and keep the music alive are to be applauded. Certainly in a live context anyway. But the question is do we actually need a CD of the David Coverdale-fronted Whitesnake performing cover versions from the David Coverdale-fronted Deep Purple?

I was a little bit sceptical and refrained from buying the album for several months. But seeing Coverdale’s erstwhile Purple bandmate, Glenn Hughes, the other month re-awakened my interest in all things Mark 3. So it was that I put this CD on my Christmas Present list.

And the verdict? There’s no doubt from the lengthy sleeve-notes penned by Coverdale of the passion and pride he feels for the musical output of his former band. And The Purple Album revisits thirteen tracks from the three albums (Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste The Band) of the Coverdale-fronted Purple. They don’t attempt to be exact replicas of the originals. But while the tunes on the album have the sound and feel of the modern Whitesnake in many ways, neither have they been messed around with too much either. There’s great versions of Burn, You Fool No-one, Mistreated and Stormbreaker and there’s some great guitar work from Whitesnake guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekestra. And there’s some nice, gentle and beautifully melodic versions of Sail Away, Holy Man and Soldier of Fortune, too.

Obviously, if you have not already got the Burn, Stormbringer or Come Taste The Band albums then get those before you think about buying this. But as a celebration of the tunes from those classic albums this is worth having. Because yes – those tunes certainly deserve to be celebrated.

Released May 2015

http://www.whitesnake.com/

The_Purple_Album_by_Whitesnake

Related reviews:
Glenn Hughes at The Electric Ballroom
Deep Purple at The O2

Deep Purple at The O2 3/12/15

In the world of classic rock/heritage rock/dad rock, call it what you will, three out of five members from the heyday era of a late 60s/early 70s rock band is pretty good going these days. So those buying a ticket for Deep Purple at the O2 still get to see Ian Gillan on stage, joined by the rhythm section for much of the band’s history Ian Paice and Roger Glover, just like when the classic Mark 2 incarnation of the band recorded Deep Purple In Rock, Machine Head and Made in Japan. And while Ian Gillan, Ian Paice and Roger Glover are on fine form tonight it would be unfair to suggest that it is only the presence of these three that make the band worth seeing.

Guitarist, Steve Morse, has now been with the band 21 years, joining not long after Ritchie Blackmore walked out seemingly for the very last time. And keyboard player, Don Airey, who many will recall from his time in Blackmore’s original post-Purple project Rainbow, has now been with the band 13 years, ever since founding keyboardist Jon Lord retired from the band before tragically succumbing to cancer. Both of these“new boys” are serious, world-class, heavyweight additions to the band as they demonstrate tonight.

Set-wise there’s a lot that fans of 1972’s Made In Japan (one of the best live rock albums of all time) will be familiar with: Highway Star, Strange Kind of Woman, The Mule, Lazy, Space Truckin’, Smoke on the Water (everything from the acclaimed live album, in fact, bar Child In Time). The classic 70s tracks are complemented by a few “best of the rest” from the post-84 period, like Perfect Strangers, as well as stand-out tracks from the latest album Now What?! It being a gig by 70s rock legends, of course, there are the obligatory solo spots: guitar solo, drum solo, bass solo and a gloriously eccentric keyboard solo from Don Airey (encompassing everything from Land of Hope and Glory to Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner (Elgar meets Chas and Dave?)

The O2 is a great venue for really big arena gigs in many respects. But I’ve noticed on several different occasions now that for those in the banks of seating around the sides, where we were seated tonight, the audience can take a little bit of time to warm up. Clearly, they were enjoying it. But unlike those on the main floor the audience remained resolutely seated. Given I was starting to get cramp and given there was no way I was going to remain seated for Smoke On The Water I decided that as soon as I heard the opening da da der – da da da der, I would jump up in my seat and hope that everyone else would follow me. They did. And the band stormed through Smoke, through their first ever single Hush and, finally, through a roaring version of Black Knight. The crowd lapped it up. O2 audiences can take a bit of warming up but they get there in the end.

Setlist:
Highway Star
Bloodsucker
Hard Lovin’ Man
Strange Kind of Woman
Vincent Price
Uncommon Man
The Well-Dressed Guitar
The Mule
Lazy
Demon’s EyeH
Hell to Pay
Perfect Strangers
Space Truckin’
Smoke on the Water
Hush
Black Night

http://www.deeppurple.com/

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